National Immigration Law Center
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Our mission is to defend & advance the rights & opportunities of low-income immigrants and their family members.

Health Care Reform Toolkit




The Truth About Immigrants in Health Care Reform


Health care reform is critically important to every man, woman and child in America. We cannot allow its opponents to derail its progress or distract us from the goal of providing quality, affordable health care to everyone in the U.S. Either we pay for quality, affordable health care now or pay more later – with money and lives.

Opponents of health reform are using immigration as one of their wedge issues to take down health reform for partisan political gain by making false claims regarding immigrants. They provide only empty criticism and offer no solutions to the real problem of working families not having access to quality, affordable health care.

The Truth is that the current health reform proposals are not comprehensive enough to appropriately address the health needs of America’s diverse population.  For instance, numerous barriers remain to affordable health care for immigrants of all statuses.


No Federal Coverage for Undocumented Immigrants

  • NO access to subsidies for undocumented immigrants.  

    • Section 246 of H.R. 3200:  Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.

    • Senate HELP: Nothing in this Act shall allow Federal payments for individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.

  • NO eligibility for government programs like Medicaid/CHIP (reaffirmed in HR 3200)

  • NO federal coverage for undocumented children

  • NO federal coverage for undocumented pregnant women

Limited Federal Coverage for Legal Immigrants

  • Five year waiting period in Medicaid remains for most lawfully residing, low-income immigrant adults

  • Since April 2009, states can choose to eliminate the federal five-year waiting period in Medicaid and CHIP for lawfully residing children and pregnant women.  But in states that do not elect this option, these children and pregnant women must still wait five years before they can get affordable health care coverage.

  • Legal immigrants and citizens have been and will continue to be required to provide proof of their immigration status or citizenship to enroll in the Medicaid and CHIP programs.  

  • Existing procedures already prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving federal health care coverage.

Americans need access to affordable health care now. Many individuals and families are one illness or accident away from bankruptcy. Don’t allow these false claims to keep everyone from getting the affordable health care they so desperately need. Let’s focus on solving the health care problem with realistic solutions based on truth.